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In brief

From November 2020 to April 2021, there have been three reported decisions by the High Court (HC) and Court of Appeal (CA) involving tax controversies with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). Two of these decisions by the HC involved disputes under the Income Tax Act (ITA). The first case pertained to the application of the general anti-avoidance provision in s 33 of the ITA, and the second case concerned the taxability of an employee’s severance payment under s 10(2)(a) of the ITA.

The final case relates to a decision by the CA concerning the assessment of property tax, and the interpretation of the terms “article” and “machinery” under s 2(2) of the Property Tax Act (PTA). The CA also made some observations on the relevance of material such as unenacted legislative amendments and administrative guidance to statutory interpretation.


Key takeaways

While these cases involve different areas of tax law, they serve as a reminder to taxpayers that the courts will not accept an interpretation of the relevant tax legislation which would stretch its meaning beyond what its language and context can reasonably bear. Taxpayers should also bear in mind that the determination of whether they come within the scope of the relevant tax legislation ultimately requires a factual analysis.

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Author

Allen Tan is the head of the Tax, Trade and Wealth Management practice in Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow. He has extensive experience working on both international and local tax issues, with a special focus on the regional tax aspects of the transactions that he is involved in. Allen’s clients include Global Fortune 500 multinational corporations and major Singapore conglomerates. He is recognised as a leading lawyer for his tax controversy and corporate tax work in many leading legal and tax directories including International Tax Review, Chambers Asia Pacific and Legal 500 Asia Pacific. Allen was also named the Asia Tax Practice Leader of the Year 2018 by International Tax Review.

Author

Dawn Quek is a leading tax and private client lawyer in Singapore with many years of experience in corporate tax and international tax planning. She is the Head of the Wealth Management practice in Singapore and is the Asia Pacific representative on the Firm's Global Wealth Management Steering Committee. Dawn is consistently ranked as a leading tax and private client/wealth lawyer by various legal publications including Chambers High Net Worth (HNW) Guide, International Tax Review Women in Tax Leaders Guide and the Legal 500 Asia Pacific. She was named "Private Client Lawyer of the Year" at the 2018 Asia Legal Awards by The Asian Lawyer, and named "Women in Wealth Management" at the 2018 WealthBriefingAsia Awards. Dawn is a key player in the local wealth management and financial services scene. She frequently participates in formal and informal consultations with government authorities on law reform on issues relating to the wealth management and financial services industry from a tax and legal perspective. She has also co-written articles on international tax planning issues in various tax and legal journals published by CCH and BNA. In addition, Dawn has been quoted extensively in publications such as the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, Reuters, the Financial Times, the Straits Times, the Business Times and Asian Private Banker on issues and developments affecting the wealth management industry in Singapore.

Author

Shih Hui Lee has advised on both regional and Singapore tax issues, with focus on advising MNCs on international tax aspects of cross-border transactions. Her practice includes advising clients on tax issues arising from mergers and acquisitions, indirect taxes, transfer taxes, foreign direct investment and cross-border tax planning issues. Prior to joining Baker McKenzie, Shih Hui worked in one of the Big Four accounting firms in Singapore. She has experienced being an in-house regional tax advisor in one of the multinational cable and satellite television channel.

Author

Jaclyn has over 10 years of experience and specialises in solving the tax needs of multinational corporations and Singapore-headquartered companies across various industries globally and regionally. She is adept at complex tax transformations to help clients unlock and maximise long term value, and achieve sustainable and tangible benefits, in tandem with business current and target operating models. Jaclyn has extensive and deep experience in unlocking corporate synergies across the spectrum of tax-related services that Baker & McKenzie offers. Whether it is an international tax issue, restructuring strategies and implementation, intellectual property planning, M&A, or tax incentive negotiations with the relevant authorities, Jaclyn is a trusted advisor to her clients with her practical, sophisticated, innovative, and tailored solutions.

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